I dream about wandering the most scenic mountains and clear lakes, wild camping under a magically starry sky and peacefully lying down in a flowery field.
Meet baby ganoush, a DJ known for her unique style and passionate commitment to the music scene and its evolving culture. Speaking during the beginning days of the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), beneath the excitement weighed the ongoing apartheid and genocide in Palestine; a subject which lay heavy on baby ganoush’s mind. Expressing the importance of raising awareness and taking action to support the causes they believe in, we delve into her approach to handling the emotional and chaotic times we face, emphasising the importance of taking action and refusing to feel powerless. Exploring baby ganoush’s connection with music and its role in providing mental peace during challenging times, this interview quickly became a window into the life and thoughts of a passionate DJ, activist, and adventurer, providing insights into their experiences and the causes they hold dear.
How are you today?
I’m alright, but overwhelmed…I’m glad to be soaking in the sunlight and I’m very excited about all the interesting events during ADE, including my gigs.
What has been overwhelming on your mind lately?
My mind feels very scattered, messy and chaotic, with lots to think about regarding the ongoing apartheid and genocide in Palestine that we’re currently watching amplified and in real-time, even though it’s already been happening for over 75 years. Lately, I don’t feel entirely right going about my own life like ‘usual’, it’s devastating to witness the erasure of Palestinian people, and I’m worried about what will happen to the rest of the Middle East, especially Lebanon — where I am from — as a consequence. I am feeling suppressed emotions surrounding the inherent racism in society, my own identity and personal traumas have come up, which is heavy and makes it hard to stay focused. So, besides being busy with a lot of different projects, I’m trying to simultaneously make time for protesting both online and offline, and not forget about the people who deserve to be remembered and need our support.
What are some ways you have been protesting, and as you say, ‘making time’? You are balancing a lot of emotions, feelings and experiences right now.
For me, it is about at least trying to take action, and refusing to feel powerless. I still feel warm and energised from all the love, energy and hope that was exuded at the protest for Palestine.
It’s so important for these protests to continue to amplify, educate, make noise and showcase our desperation for change, as simply walking is not enough. 15000 people showed up at the protest, but I mostly saw BIPOC around me. I’m super grateful for all the other allies that showed up, but I’m also exhausted from witnessing the lack of action from white peers. People love to enjoy our culture, countries, cuisine and music, but when it comes to standing up for us, the issue becomes ‘too complicated’. The only way to make an impact is if allies also stand up for us, as seen in past historical events because the people we want to influence will only listen to people who look like them or who appear to be on their side.
Essentially, the more people educate themselves and fight for change, the better…
Yes, I used to feel sick of posting about political issues on social media because it felt like I was preaching to the choir, but that’s not 100% true. I know I have people in my following who have a lot of people in their circle who aren’t necessarily engaged in the cause and might have the power to influence even more people… Imagine if we could ignite that wave and spark even more action. I think humanity has forgotten that we do have the choice to act beyond social media. I’m telling you all this because I couldn’t live with myself if I had enjoyed ADE without standing up against genocide oppression and apartheid. For us BIPOC it’s not a choice, our existence is resistance as it all directly affects us. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.
Has music been able to bring you any mental peace during this time?
I try to let all my emotions out into music, it’s one of the few things that make me feel like I can breathe when I don’t feel seen or heard. I’m happy that I took a step back last weekend to ground myself, be around loved ones and self-care, while supporting the movement.
And how do you describe your DJ style?
I’m serving “tears in the club” combined with “intelligent butt music” baked into a transcendental voyage.
Beyond style, would you describe your approach as somewhat therapeutic?
Most of my sets come straight from the heart. Music is very intimate, personal and sensitive to me, no matter if it’s ambient or energising. I sometimes jokingly describe it for myself as ”experimental she/bro”; tensely expressing and exploring my feminine side while freely releasing my masculine energy (even though it’s not that binary). The stories I tell are very intentional, and I still learn new insights about myself when listening back, almost like I subconsciously left myself the missing pieces to the puzzle.
What’s your main source of inspiration?
Mainly my roller coaster of emotions, the brightest of memories or deepest of lows, and contrasting identity/heritage, being Lebanese, growing up in Sweden and now feeling somewhat lost in a diaspora, even though I think I’m slowly starting to find my place thanks to the ever-growing diverse communities here in Amsterdam. I’ve been struggling a lot with depression and burnout the past years and by focusing on music I’ve been able to ground and express myself even in the toughest times. Almost symbolically to being from a diaspora, I also find inspiration in the spaces in between. For example, when chilling in the areas between dance floors, where music from different rooms collides, you hear the highs from one room mixing with the lows from another. Or even with noise coming from generators. I get most inspired by reflecting on the bike after and between events. There are hidden messages in every mix.
Where do you like to party?
Nowadays I go to Garage Noord or Kanaal40 almost every weekend, that’s where I feel most myself and discover the most new music. And pre-COVID I spent so much time at De School, where I had a big community and found my chosen family. Nowadays I prefer going to De School at the bigger events like ADE and De Nieuw, that’s when all the people who are otherwise divided into their subcultures finally collide and we need a space for that in Amsterdam. LAAK in Den Haag and most Subbacultcha events also tend to be exactly what I need.
The parties in Amsterdam that give me the best vibe would easily be Spielraum (now opening Club Raum), as well as BODY and Los Angles; the vibrancy, community, inclusivity, care, appreciation, and, warmth found in these spaces is not something you find everywhere and I’m eternally grateful for all the work they have done to provide the LGBTQIA+ a safe space to fully be ourselves. These initiatives, as well as when Garage Noord or Kanaal feature diverse lineups like Nyege Nyege, are the few times I see so much steaminess, energy, and movement through the whole dancefloor.
What do you like to do before a set to get you in the mood?
I still need to make a ritual for myself! From now on I think I’ll do something sweet and calm down. Light some incense, stretch, eat a cardamom bun to feel at home, and just listen to music that I love to get in the right headspace and activate my body. Make sure to bring along the friends who want to come support and ask people for a couple of hugs before releasing some serotonin. Some physical touch and intimacy can set me in the right mood.
Which other DJs or music artists inspire you the most?
I’ve always looked up to Lazergazer and Nosediva. Seeing people who I could somewhat relate to doing exactly what they wanted, at the most interesting venues in Amsterdam inspired me and made me believe that I could do it too. Other than that Tzusing has always been my all-time biggest DJ inspiration as I somehow relate a lot to his way of curating and releasing energy while playing. I also am inspired by MI MI, Zohar, Ojoo Gyal, 3phaz, Nelly and Toumba, Djrum, Hyph11he, YoungWoman and Zobayda. The list is endless, I could go on forever…
If you could change anything about the industry what would it be?
The insane pay gap between artists makes it difficult for nightlife and communities to sustain themselves and book people because certain artists just charge unnecessary amounts of money. If the money was more equally distributed, every DJ could also afford to give a certain percentage to the producers whose music we’re playing as well as to support minority groups and political causes that are important to us, because music is a platform for revolution.
Besides DJing, what do you do in your daily life?
I love going on spontaneous and unexpected adventures, spending time with friends, and hiking. I think I fantasise about renting a car and driving away on a long road trip with my silliest and cosiest friends daily. I dream about wandering the most scenic mountains and clear lakes, wild camping under a magically starry sky and peacefully lying down in a flowery field. That’s what I want to do right now. I’m also obsessed with exploring new places in Amsterdam and beyond, cultural or scenic spots, food etc, which people who have seen my manic amount of Google Maps pins can vouch for.
What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
I want to say driving to Croatia for Dekmantel Selectors in 2022, after not driving for 3 years since I got my licence! That was such a big deal for me, proving to myself that I was independent enough to do a trip like that but mostly to drive cause I had always been way too scared to. Passion Deez’s life was in my hands. I’m also laughing at the fact that I’m using this as an example for my biggest accomplishment, but my whole life I struggled to trust and believe in myself and my instinct, so impulsive actions like this one or even starting to DJ are big accomplishments for me, because they prove exactly that. Things I didn’t believe I could do but still threw myself right into.
What’s one song you always go back to?
Economy Of Freedom by Croatian Amor and Yves Tumor.
If you could think of your favourite club lineup what would it be?
I’d like a mix of percussive rhythms, dub, dembow, grime, bass, some feely trancey moments and audiovisual ambient acts, with possible surprises like FKA Twigs pole dancing with swords. My ideal lineup includes Mala b2b Darwin, Tzusing, Hyph11e, Ojoo Gyal, Djrum, and ambient or noisy live acts like Space Afrika, Rachika Nayar, 7038634367, Hiro Kone, or Croatian Amor and Oqbqbo. I believe artists like Rozaly, Bitter Babe, and Manuka Honey are essential. I’ve envisioned a club lineup with myself, Himera, Evian Christ, Youngwoman, and live shows by Lauren Duffus or Malibu. If we dream bigger, nhtng, Courtesy b2b Dj Ibon could fit in. It’s about showcasing diverse emotions while keeping THE FEELS at the forefront, though it might be intense. I’d love to witness the emotional and transcendental night we could create, with an amazing crowd.
What’s something that you can’t live without?
… a good heavy beat and frosty twinkling tones.. no but for real I can’t live without love, laughter, PLAYFULNESS and passion, with friends, family and situations/relationships.
What advice would you give young DJs trying to break into the industry?
Play the tracks that you want to play regardless of what the crowd might think. Have fun with it, take risks and use the mixer as an instrument to create your signature.
Words by Grace Powell
Images courtesy of the artist